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Submitted by Clive on Sun, 17/07/2011 - 19:55

This idea that the SP has been hard-done by in debates is quite hard to credit. Having been, for instance, a delegate to LPYS conference in which I had my hand up for pretty much every debate but was never called once; or having been to LPYS summer camps where I had my hand up in every session I went to but never got called once, I can tell you that the Militant was awful on this matter.

The norms of debate at any democratic conference is that you have speakers for and speakers against any motion, amendment, or whatever. Not the LPYS, though. There was a speaker for a motion - so if you managed to survive the compositing you might get to speak in proposing a dissident resolution (ditto an amendment), but then the 'debate' was simply whoever the chair wanted to call - which was usually just speaker after speaker from the Militant. (And if someone tells me the chair didn't know who the individuals were he - it was usually he - was or wasn't calling, I won't bother to respond).

Plus, entire subject areas - like, until 1984, for instance, lesbian and gay rights - would be disregarded and not discussed, on the grounds there wasn't time, no matter how many resolutions had been put in on the subject.

The Militant justified this utterly appalling attitude to democracy with the argument that 'the sects' were 'irrelevant' (not to mention 'strutting' and 'on the fringes of the labour movement') - so it didn't matter. I'm sorry. Who the fuck do you think you are?

I do remember Taaffe once agreeing to debate us, actually. It was at LPYS summer camp - it was early in the 1980s; I don't remember which year, exactly. (By a process of deduction on my part it must have been 1981, though I'm not sure). There was some heated exchange involving Taafe, and he agreed to an impromptu debate, there and then - with someone from the then-WSL (who was less than half Taafe's age, if that).

Taaffe spoke 'first' - not for long: five or ten minutes. And when his opponent in the debate (who I remember was eager but nervous) got up to speak, Taaffe simply walked off!

I wouldn't suggest he was worried about being beaten in the argument. But he plainly considered it beneath his dignity actually to listen to this kid from 'the sects' say anything at all.

'Wanker' doesn't really do it justice.

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